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Consumer surplus vs. welfare standard in a political economy model of merger control

  • Neven, Damien J.
  • Roller, Lars-Hendrik

This paper considers merger control in a common agency framework where firms and their competitors can influence the antitrust agency and where transparency - while making lobbying less effective - also implies real resource costs. We examine the performance of two alternative standards that can be assigned to the antitrust agency in the presence of these regulatory failures. We find that under a welfare standard, lobbying leads to the clearance of relatively inefficient mergers that decrease welfare (i.e. there is a type II error). By contrast, under a consumer surplus standard, the agency will ban relatively efficient mergers that would increase welfare (i.e. there is a type I error). Lobbying actually reduces the extent to which this occurs, albeit at a cost in terms of real resources. We also find that a consumer surplus standard is more attractive when mergers are large, when increasing the size of a merger greatly enhances industry profits, when there is little transparency, and when co-ordination costs amongst competitors are low.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Journal of Industrial Organization.

Volume (Year): 23 (2005)
Issue (Month): 9-10 (December)
Pages: 829-848

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Handle: RePEc:eee:indorg:v:23:y:2005:i:9-10:p:829-848
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505551

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  1. Harberger, Arnold C, 1971. "Three Basic Postulates for Applied Welfare Economics: An Interpretive Essay," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 785-97, September.
  2. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 1992. "Protection for Sale," Papers 162, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  3. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 85-114, February.
  4. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1986. "Common Agency," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(4), pages 923-42, July.
  5. Besanko, David & Spulber, Daniel F, 1993. "Contested Mergers and Equilibrium Antitrust Policy," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 1-29, April.
  6. Laffont, Jean-Jacques & Tirole, Jean, 1991. "The Politics of Government Decision-Making: A Theory of Regulatory Capture," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1089-127, November.
  7. Martín Rama & Guido Tabellini, . "Lobbying by Capital and Labor over Trade and Labor Market Policies," Working Papers 94, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  8. Posner, Richard A, 1975. "The Social Costs of Monopoly and Regulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 807-27, August.
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